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Emerson Drops More Properties From Redevelopment Plan

Salvatore Gebbia of Weathercraft on Emerson Plaza East asks another resident in favor of the redevelopment zone to consider the businesspeople whose livelihoods are in jeopardy. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Pericles Niarchos of the Institute for Justice addressing the Emerson council. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
A packed council chambers in Emerson Tuesday night during public comment on properties in the development area. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash
Toni Plantamura,owner of the Emerson Dairy Queen, asked the council for tax credits for local businesses whose traffic is down 20 to 30 percent due to work on Kinderkamack Road. Photo Credit: Lorraine Ash

EMERSON, N.J. — Emerson continued reconfiguring its redevelopment area along the Kinderkamack Road corridor Tuesday night.

The area comprises 14 blocks extending from the Westwood border south to the Oradell border.

Some of the blocks already have been placed in the so-called redevelopment area.

Others are designated for study to see if they should be.

The Borough Council on Tuesday passed a resolution removing some properties from the study area.

The move sent ripples of cautious relief among some small business owners worried that redevelopment could threaten their properties.

“Am I in or out?” asked Bob Petrow, owner of Star Auto Sales and multiple lots on Chestnut Street.

“You’re out,” replied Borough Attorney Wendy Rubenstein.

“Now I’m waiting for my (confirmation) letter,” Petrow replied.

Some of the properties removed Tuesday are near the Westwood border to the north — Block 214 and some lots in Block 405, where Petrow’s businesses are.

Others are near the Oradell border to the south — most of Block 617.01.

Todd Bradbury, owner of Bradbury Landscape in Block 214, is happy his business was removed from the study area.

“It’s fantastic to be out but it’s complicated,” said Bradbury, spokesman for Stop Emerson Eminent Domain (SEED), a grassroots group.

“I have concerns for the people who are still in.”

Block 419 in particular has everyone on edge.

It was designated as a condemnation zone to accommodate a large multi-use development by JMF Properties.

Property owners say they wonder if their blocks could become a condemnation zone, too.

Recently, The Institute for Justice agreed to represent SEED. The nonprofit, based in Washington, D.C., is known for pioneering cases of eminent domain abuse.

The group sent Pericles Niarchos, its activism manager, to speak in Emerson.

“(Business owners) are terrified of losing everything that they’ve worked so hard to own,” Niarchos said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“They don’t have government pensions to cash in. They don’t have corporate 401Ks.”

Their retirement and legacy is built into brick-and-mortar businesses they have risked everything to grow, he said.

Niarchos called on the council to rescind the eminent domain designation altogether and stop all further study in the redevelopment area.

Tuesday’s resolution marked the second round of removals from the redevelopment and study areas in the past two months.

In February, the council voted to remove some properties in the central business district because they’ve been upgraded.

In other news Tuesday, the governing body agreed to discuss removing additional lots in the vicinity of Emerson Plaza East from the study area.

Specifically, they earmarked seven lots in Block 616 and one in Block 617.

Council President Chris Knoller made the motion to discuss the additional lots.

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